Do Stock Prices Respond To Changes In Corporate Income Tax Rates?

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Do stock prices respond to changes in corporateincome tax rates? Christian Imboden†November 1, 2018AbstractFor public corporations, changes in corporate tax rates may significantly alter future earnings available to shareholders. When these ratesare changed, markets should adjust stock prices to reflect the change incapitalization value of future earnings. State corporate income tax ratechanges are heterogeneous across states and time. Using stocks where thestate-by-state allocation of income can be determined, I examine priceresponses around the timing of these tax rate changes using event studyand differences-in-differences frameworks. Overall, changes in stock pricesare much greater than would be expected if profits changed by the fullamount of the tax, but this is driven almost entirely by tax increases.These results suggest effects from interstate competition between companies as well as competition between C corporations and pass-throughentities. I also find that the timing of these price changes differ for taxcuts and increases, with lawmakers signaling their intentions sooner fortax cuts. Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) was used in preparing this paper. This serviceand the data available thereon constitute valuable intellectual property and trade secrets ofWRDS and/or its third-party suppliers.† Ph.D. candidate, University of Oregon Department of Economics1

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?1Page 2IntroductionFor the last few decades, Federal and state lawmakers in the United States havepaid significant attention to improving the efficacy of the corporate income tax.Gravelle (2017) enumerates several public policy examinations at the Federallevel, including the 2005 Advisory Panel on Tax Reform, several opinion piecesby policy makers, a 2007 Treasury Department background paper, and numerousbills introduced in Congress. A similar level of examination has occurred at thestate level.1 Though there are numerous issues complicating the debate over thecorporate tax, in this paper, I examine the impacts of corporate tax changes onshareholders.The incidence of the corporate tax is notoriously difficult to predict. Depending on model selection, choice of functional forms within models, and modelparameterization, theory gives wildly different results for the incidence of thecorporate tax, ranging from more than one hundred percent to less than zeropercent of the burden falling on shareholders (Harberger 1962, Auerbach 2006,Harberger 2006). Empirical results are also far from conclusive, with a widevariety of incidence rates. Estimates the incidence on labor range from nearzero to up to two thousand percent.2 A minority of corporate tax incidencestudies estimate the incidence on capital (examples include Cragg, Harberger,and Mieszkowski (1967), who estimate that capital bears close to the full burdenof the tax, and Desai, Foley, and Hines (2007), who estimate that capital bearsbetween twenty-five and fifty-five percent of the tax).In this paper, I try to resolve the existing contradictory empirical results byproviding evidence from stock markets. Taking the stance that stock marketsefficiently integrate publicly available information into stock prices, stock price1 Most recently in Iowa, where state corporate tax rates were overhauled (Bloomberg BNA2018).2 (For discussions see Desai, Foley, and Hines (2007) and Dwenger, Rattenhuber, and Steiner(2011)).

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 3changes that accompany corporate tax rate changes should inform us about thevalue of the burden falling on shareholders.Estimating stock price changes caused by changes in tax rates at the federallevel can be difficult, as the federal tax code often changes all at once in infrequent, major overhauls, so the effects of a particular tax change among manysimultaneous changes are difficult to tease out. Cross-country comparisons arechallenging because of the political and cultural heterogeneity of the underlying countries. What is needed is a set of reasonably similar jurisdictions, aset of corporate tax rate changes that vary across time and jurisdictions, anda set of stocks of comparable companies where the jurisdiction-by-jurisdictionapportionment of income can be ascertained.I examine the effects of changes in state-level corporate tax rates on the valueof stocks listed on the major United States stock exchanges. For most US equities, determining the exact state-by-state breakdown of corporate income is atbest a noisy task, as tax returns of publicly traded corporations are not publiclyavailable information, and proprietary sources of corporate data may not havesufficient data to properly allocate income across states. Fortunately, there isa subset of stocks that permit accurate state-by-state allocation: regional bankstocks. These stocks fulfill a number of desirable characteristics for this exercise:the companies are often completely located within one or a handful of states,corporate taxes represent a large proportion of their net profits, their branchunits are comparable within companies, and operations of different companiesare similar. I calculate the percentage of each firm’s income allocated to eachstate for tax purposes. Using the set of state-level corporate tax rate changesfrom 1994-2017, I examine the change in stock valuation of these companiesaround the public unveilings of corporate tax rate changes, first using financialevent studies, then in a differences-in-differences (DiD) regression framework.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 4In the event studies, I regress stock returns on market returns and otherfactors over a time span well before the events of a tax change, creating a modelof how the stock returns behave. Then I use the deviation of stock prices fromthe model’s prediction around the events of the tax change to establish thestock’s abnormal returns. In the DiD regressions, I regress logarithmic changesin stock prices on log tax changes and a variety of controls and fixed effectsto determine the percent change in stock price induced by a percent change incorporate tax rates. I augment the basic DiD regressions with other regressiontechniques that are more robust to outliers.I find that the timings of these stock valuation changes differ for tax ratedecreases and tax rate increases. For tax decreases, most of the associated stockprice increases occur well before the corresponding new tax bill is introduced,and mostly disappear as the bill becomes law. On the other hand, most ofthe price decreases due to tax increases only materialize when the bill is finallyintroduced. This suggests that lawmakers reap benefits from signalling taxdecreases but not increases.In the case of tax increases, the DiD results imply that far more than onehundred percent of the tax falls on shareholders, approximately a ten percentstock price decrease for a one percentage point tax rate increase. The results fortax decreases imply about a one to two percent increase in stock value per onepercent decrease in tax rate, but these results are far noisier. These large resultscan be explained by a combination of interstate competition between banks, aswell as competition between C corporations (those companies directly affectedby the new tax rates) and S corporations (those companies that do not paythe corporate tax). In the case of tax decreases, executive management teamsmay decide to reap the benefits of lower tax expenses as executive compensationrather than passing the benefits along to shareholders. However, some placebo

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 5tests provide evidence that treatment coefficient estimates may be somewhatbiased.These results must be taken with some caveats, as even the most basiccorporate tax incidence models show that differing production functions yieldmeaningfully different results (Harberger 1962), and banks may not be representative of publicly traded corporations in other industries. For example, thesecompanies are highly levered relative to the stock market as a whole.3 However,banking is an industry tied to basically all of the other industries, so these resultsmay be more externally valid than those of many single-industry studies. Thiswork contributes to the financial event study literature, by augmenting eventstudies with a more causal DiD framework when a large set of geographicallyand temporally heterogeneous changes permits.The next section provides a review of related literature. After that, I describedata used in this study while providing institutional details relevant to the data.I then describe the methodologies used and present results for both the eventstudies and DiD regressions, including placebo tests for both. I discuss reasonsfor the timing and magnitude of results. Finally, I conclude, commenting onavenues for future research.2Related LiteratureThis research combines literatures in public finance and financial economics.First, it draws from an old but ever controversial literature on the incidenceof the corporate tax. As mentioned, conclusions about the incidence of thecorporate tax are far from settled. Even in Harberger’s (1962) seminal paper,small changes in modeling assumptions drastically change results, from all of3 A quick analysis of debt ratios of the Dow Jones Industrial Average components (sansfinancial components) versus an equally sized sample of regional bank stocks, taken at themidpoint of the sample, shows that the bank stocks have total debt-to-equity ratios that are,on average, approximately six times higher than the Dow components.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 6the burden falling on capital to most of the burden falling on labor. It shouldbe noted that Harberger’s baseline result has the entire burden falling on allcapital, not just corporate capital. A more modern review of the theoreticalliterature can be found in Auerbach (2006). Of note, Harberger’s (1962) closedeconomy results reverse in an open economy model, with all of the burden fallingon labor. An important common feature of most models is that they describelong run phenomena and ignore short run effects.On the empirical side, most research focuses on the incidence of the corporatetax on labor. This is at least partly due to the fact that owners of corporatecapital tend to be on the upper end of the income distribution, whereas thetypical laborer is not. Thus, determining incidence has great importance interms of the progressivity of the corporate tax. Examples of these labor-focusedstudies include Dwenger, Rattenhuber, and Steiner (2011), who find an elasticity of wage rates to tax rates of -2.37, Arulampalam, Devereux, and Maffini(2012), who find an elasticity of -0.92, and Hasset and Mathur (2010), who findan elasticity of -0.5 to -0.6. Early studies on the incidence on capital includeKrzyzaniak and Musgrave (1963), who find that capital can benefit from a tax,and Cragg, Harberger, and Mieszkowski’s (1967) rebuttal, which reverses the1963 results. A more recent study is Desai, Foley, and Hines (2007), who estimate the relative burden on labor and capital by assuming that they sum tounity, and find that twenty-five to fifty-five percent of the burden falls on capital. Gordon (1985) finds small benefits of the corporate tax on investment. Inaddition, Gravelle (2017) gives a thorough summary of other studies relating tothe corporate income tax (Laffer curve, investment, etc.) as well as describingcommon econometric issues that arise in studying the corporate income tax.This paper adds to a newer, burgeoning body of literature that relies onchanges to state corporate tax rates in the United States as a source of variation.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 7An early example is Feldstein and Poterba (1980), who find that an omissionof state and local taxes understates the rate of return to capital. More recentexamples include Felix and Hines (2009), who show that unionized workers benefit by capturing approximately half of the benefit of lower state corporate taxrates, Giroud and Rauh (2015), who find that employment and number of establishments both have state corporate tax elasticities of approximately -0.4,Heider and Ljungqvist (2015), who find that the use of leverage has a statecorporate tax elasticity of about 0.4. In addition, Ljungqvist and Smolyansky(2014) find the asymmetric result that tax increases decrease employment andfirm income but tax decreases do little, Ljungqvist Zhang and Zou (2015) findanother asymmetry in that tax increases reduce firm risk-taking while tax cutsdo little, and Serrato and Zidar (2017) find that the narrowing of states’ corporate tax bases over time reduce states’ ability to raise revenue through rateincreases. Important themes in this literature include the use of tax changes,not levels, as a source of variation (implored for by Auerbach (2006)), leveraging the vast heterogeneity of these changes over space and time, and notingasymmetric results stemming from tax increases versus decreases.Important for this research, Giroud and Rauh (2015) find that most statecorporate tax changes are exogenous with respect to the income of individualfirms, following a narrative method of categorizing tax changes as more or lessexogenous according to Romer and Romer (2010). This finding is supportedby Ljungqvist and Smolyansky (2014), who note that corporate tax revenuestypically account for only a small portion of state revenues. The corporatetax may be of second order consideration for closing budget deficits, thus thesechanges may tend to be more exogenous.Previous studies differ from this paper in that they focus on non-financialcapital. Many states have different corporate tax rates on financial and non-

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 8financial institutions. To my knowledge, this is the first paper to focus mainlyon the effects of changes in state corporate tax rates on financial institutions.As a result, some of the data look slightly different, and some previous conclusions, such as the inference that state corporate tax rates follow a randomwalk (Ljungqvist and Smolyansky (2014)) must be revisited. Previous studiesalso look at firm behavior as rate changes come into effect, whereas this studylooks at the market’s response to rate changes as the laws are announced andmade, well before they come into effect (or sometimes well after, in the case ofretroactive law changes).This research relies heavily on the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH), related to the work of Samuelson (1965), developed by Fama (1965, 1969, 1970),and made famous in the popular press by Malkiel (1973). Fama (1970) developedthe notion of the semi-strong form of the EMH, which states that stock pricesreflect all publicly available information. Lo (2005) enumerates how much ofwidely accepted modern financial economics is derived from the EMH. Althoughnon-behavioral critiques of the EMH exist (see, for example, Buffett (1984)), themajority of EMH criticisms come from the behavioral finance camp (a summaryof these criticisms can be found in Lo (2005)). Malkiel (2003) rebuts these criticisms by noting that many of the most famous behavioral exceptions, such asthe January effect, disappear nearly as soon as they are discovered. Lo (2005)has an interesting approach to this debate, reconciling the EMH and behavioralanomalies by combining the two camps into an imperfect but rational evolutionary process in which rational stock trading strategies are learned over timeand respond to changing market conditions. This paper takes the stance thatthe major US stock markets are imperfectly efficient in the semi-strong sense,but efficient enough to capture the impacts of publicly available information ina reasonable amount of time (say, a few days).

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 9News of changes to a state’s corporate tax code may not register with investors immediately if they are not constantly keeping abreast of changes in statelaws. Given that, in any one state’s legislative session, thousands of bills maybe introduced, the passage of one of many proposed tax law changes may slipinvestors’ notice for a short period of time. This relates to the work of Chetty,Looney, and Kroft (1989), who show how purchasers may ignore important taxinformation if such information is not salient.Finally, this paper relates to an ongoing debate about the transparency ofpublicly traded companies’ tax information. Currently, the tax returns of publicly traded companies in the United States are not made publicly available. Thispaper makes use of company data where corporations’ business establishmentlocations are identifiable using publicly available information; in most cases theyare not. This point is debated, for example in Lenter, Slemrod, and Shackelford(2003). While the debate is complicated (for example, full transparency maylead to companies publishing lower quality information), this paper suggeststhat persons who have detailed information about the state-by-state allocationsof corporations’ incomes may have a trading advantage over other investors.3Data and Institutional DetailsThe goal of this paper is to show how changes in state corporate tax rates effectstock returns; thus, data must consist of a sample of stock returns and a scheduleof state corporate tax law changes. For years 1994-2017, I look at changes tostates’ top marginal corporate tax rates, as these types of law changes are mostcomparable across states (“states” refers to the 50 states plus the District ofColumbia).4 Table 1, which combines data culled from The Book of the States as4 These top rate changes include changes to surtaxes, which alter the top rates effectivelypaid by corporations. I only look at top rates, even in the case of states with multiple brackets,for simplicity. First, most states only have one rate. States with multiple brackets have top

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 10well as state websites, provides information on the levels of the top marginal taxrates on C corporations for years 1994-2017 for the 51 “states” in the sample. Ofnote, states exhibit wide heterogeneity in rates throughout the sample, and overtime, there is a trend towards lower tax rates. Also of note, some states havedifferent corporate tax rates for financial institutions. From this point onward,I ignore states with a corporate tax base that is not based on net income (forexample, states that tax gross receipts instead).5Corporate taxes are assessed on the taxable net incomes of Subchapter Ccorporations (Subchapter S corporations and other pass-through entities arenot subject to the tax). The taxable net incomes of companies in the stocksample are substantially similar to those companies’ accounting profits for bookpurposes.6Given that, under the EMH, stock prices reflect all publicly available information, stock prices should change at latest shortly after a tax change is madecertain, i.e. when the proposed tax change is signed into law. It is importantto note that changes in tax rates do not map one-to-one with changes in statelaws; one law may enact multiple rate changes over time.7 Thus, the eventsused in this study are dates relating to changes in laws, which do not alwayscoincide with the dates of changes in rates.Many states have different corporate tax rates for financial institutions, andsince I examine the returns to regional bank stocks, my schedule of law changeslooks slightly different than those schedules used in the aforementioned literabrackets beginning at incomes so low relative to the typical income of a firm in my sampleso as to not significantly affect my findings. Possible exceptions are the 250,000 top bracketin Kentucky and the 1,000,000 brackets of New Mexico and South Dakota, which affect lessthan one percent of the sample of firms.5 States excluded for this reason are Michigan, Ohio, and Texas.6 Although there are a number of “M-1 adjustments” made to reconcile net income for taxpurposes and net income for book purposes, this study merely assumes that such adjustmentsnet to zero.7 A complicated example is the corporate tax law passed in Indiana in 2013, which phasedin nine successively lower rates over the course of ten years.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 11ture. I identify these law changes first by identifying changes in the top marginalrates paid by financial institutions by comparing different years’ rate schedulesfound in The Book of the States for years 1994-2017.8 Where surtaxes are employed, top marginal rates and surtax rates are combined into one top effectivemarginal rate. From these rate changes, I map the large set of top marginal ratechanges to a smaller set of corresponding law changes, by searching LexisNexisand the websites of state legislatures. For each applicable law change, I collectfive key dates: the date that the earliest talk of an impending corporate ratechange was in the news, the date the legislation was introduced, the date thelegislation was passed by the state legislature, the date the bill became law, andthe date the first rate change in the law went into effect (as well as future datesof other top rates coming into effect, in the case of a law with multiple ratechanges over multiple years). These first four dates always follow in chronological order, but the fifth may not, in the case of retroactive law changes.9 Ifinvestors view the legislative process as a process of an impending law becomingmore certain, then, under the EMH, stock prices leading up to the signing ofa law should reflect investors’ evolving notions of the probability of the law’spassage. Of these five dates, the most problematic is the first date, hereaftercalled the “first news date.” Unlike the other dates, there is a significant degreeof subjectivity in selecting this date, and choosing a date that is too late mayresult in missing out on a period of time when investors assessed the likelihoodof an impending law change as ever increasing (thus, by picking too late of adate I may miss the relevant stock market reaction).10For each law change affecting top marginal rates, additional data collectedincludes whether or not the change only affected financial institutions, and8 Forfurther information about the collection of rate change data, see the Data Appendix.of the forty-nine law changes studied were retroactive.10 Just because an impending law change is not touted in the news does not mean thatlawmakers and investors are not already discussing it in less public circles.9 Nineteen

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 12whether or not the rate changed via a surtax rate change or a regular ratechange. Additionally, based on narratives pieced together from LexisNexis newsarticles, I code each law change using the four categories listed in Romer andRomer (2010) in order to assess the exogeneity of each law change: one forlaw changes designed to increase output, two for changes designed to changevariables related to output, three for dealing with inherited budget deficits, andfour for philosophical or ideological reasons such as fairness. I add a fifth category, not found in their paper, for exogenous law changes that were due to anoutside body determining that the tax code must change.11 Reasons one andtwo describe more endogenous tax changes while the remainder are consideredto be exogenous. Each law change is given a two letter, two digit abbreviationfor ease of reference, using the state abbreviation and the year the first top ratechange in the law came into effect (e.g. MD08).Since many law changes featured multiple rate changes over time, each lawchange is distilled down to one overall top rate change, expressed in logarithmicchange in present value of future earnings of firms.12 This log change can bethought of as the overall percent change in corporate tax rates. Table 2 showsthe dates of events relating to all state law changes relating to changes in topmarginal corporate income tax rates on financial institutions for 1994-2017.Tables 3 and 4 distill this information by displaying the average number of daysbetween key dates in the legislative history for a subset of tax decreases andincreases that are used in the event studies in the next section. Table 5 providessummary information for relating to the content of each law change, includingthe top rate in effect before each change, top rate or rates after the change, andthe overall magnitude of the change.In order to assess the impact of state corporate tax rate changes on stock11 Forexample, this could occur when a portion of a state’s tax code was struck down by asupreme court.12 For details on this procedure, see the Appendix.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 13prices, one must be able to determine how much of the underlying companies’incomes are allocated to each state for tax purposes. This task is complicated bystates’ tax nexus laws, which dictate how income is apportioned to the variousstates based on varying ratios of sales, payroll, and property. For most publiclytraded companies, this is opaque, as publicly traded companies do not haveto break down their sales, payroll, and property factors by state in their publicfilings, and proprietary databases do not contain all three factors. I use a sampleof regional and community bank stocks in the US because they overcome thisimpediment. Unlike most public firms, who raise equity capital in order toexpand perhaps nationally or even internationally, companies in the sampleof regional bank stocks tend to only have operations in one or a few states,suggesting that part of these firms’ business strategy is to stay small and developa community-oriented reputation.The business of these smaller banks is simple: they accept deposits whichare used to make loans, primarily to homeowners and small businesses. Thevast majority of these companies break down the number of bank branchesthat are in each state in their annual Forms 10-K, which are filed with theSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and made publicly available viathe SEC’s online Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system(EDGAR). EDGAR only maintains filings back to 1994. I use the descriptionsof bank branch locations to allocate income for each company across multiplestates, in proportion to the number of branches.13 Corporate taxes represent alarge portion of these companies’ profits, giving investors a good reason to payattention to the applicable tax rates.1413 Thisassumes that each branch within a company uses the same amount of payroll, property, and sales (interest revenue from loans) at each branch. This assumption is unnecessaryin the case of companies with operations in only one state. For further information about theallocation of income across states, see the appendix.14 For example, the median firm in the sample of firms (firm sample creation is describedin the next paragraph) by market capitalization averaged over the past three years 80.39% ofnet profits (42.90% of net income before taxes) in total income taxes, of which 8.79% of net

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 14The sample of regional bank stocks was created by combining a list of regional bank stocks from and by searching the Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) database (accessed via the Wharton ResearchData Service (WRDS)) for companies with Standard Industrial Classification(SIC) codes relating to regional banking.15 If banks lobby for lower tax rates,stock returns could be endogenous to tax rate changes. To minimize these concerns, I drop companies belonging to the Financial Services Roundtable lobbyand companies with a market capitalization of over ten billion dollars.16 Inorder to make sure markets are efficient enough to capture publicly availableinformation in a timely manner, I drop banks that do not trade on major USexchanges and banks with market capitalizations below ten million dollars.17I also drop companies that are “too national,” i.e. that have operations inmore than ten states. Daily stock returns for the final sample of 639 firms aredownloaded from the CRSP database.4Methodology and ResultsIn this section, I describe some of the preliminary tests needed to study the relationship between stock prices and expected tax rates, and I detail the designand results of the two main methodologies used. Of these, the first, a series of financial event studies, shows the abnormal stock returns (relative to the market)for a basket of affected stocks around key dates in the legislative histories of corporate tax law changes. The event studies suffer in that they do not account fordifferent treatment sizes (differing sizes of law changes or different percentagesof the operations of companies that are affected by a law change), and becausethe event timelines are different for all law changes. However, they are useful inprofits (4.82% of net income before taxes) was comprised of state corporate income taxes.15 is a website specializing in creating themed lists of stocks.16 The Financial Services Roundtable is the largest banking lobby in the US.17 For additional information about dropping stocks from this sample, see the appendix.

Do stock prices respond to changes in corporate income tax rates?Page 15that they help visualize the impacts of the unfolding tax law changes on stockreturns.Using the second main methodology, a DiD regression framework, I am ableto deal with the shortcomings of the event studies by using diffe

In the event studies, I regress stock returns on market returns and other factors over a time span well before the events of a tax change, creating a model of how the stock returns behave. Then I use the deviation of stock prices from the model's prediction around the events of the tax change to establish the stock's abnormal returns.

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